In a Dignified Manner, What You Actually Did

I’m of two minds about sharing my processes. On the positive side, people starting out in creative businesscan get an idea of what needs to be done. It shows them the possibilities. I’m sharing with others, and contributing to the success of the community as a whole. At worst, readers gain an understanding of the difficulties in doing this. Maybe giving them a peek behind the curtain helps them to avoid some of the problems that I struggled to overcome.

On the negative side, this is 2020 and humanity is the way it is. I already get guff for “doing things wrong” for the things I visibly don’t do in the same manner as other writers, designers, and small publishers. “Wrong” in this instance isn’t a failure of results, necessarily, but are failure to conform to some unwritten orthodoxy. Revealing my process is just opening myself up to more criticism, especially in an environment where others aren’t being transparent.

There is also the reality that my publishing niche is small, and therefore competitive. Moneyball worked for the Oakland A’s when they were the only ones doing it. Once other teams caught on and it started becoming a standard practice in sports, it was no longer a competitive advantage. As a rare outlier who makes a living doing this, full time, with no other source of income, I’m reluctant to share my trade secrets.

“We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or to describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn’t any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work.”

Richard Feynman, The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics, Nobel Lecture (11 December, 1965)

Combining the first two arguments, I could reveal how I manage to earn a living at this and someone would just call me a liar.

In a Dignified Manner, What You Actually Did

All of the above negative points influence my decisions about what to share, and what not to. When it comes down to it, though, there’s one reason why I’m not fully transparent. I’m the one that made the investment. Rather than going for an MFA, I earned a business degree. I wrote case studies, did A/B testing, and took the risks. I’m the one that’s been grinding to create new products, and then analyzing what works and what doesn’t. Over time I’ve made the effort to gather data about product types, price points, and page counts. Even what days and times of day are best to release new products.

My assertion has been that anyone can do what I’ve done, if they put in the work. I did the work. I continue to do the work. What I have, I have earned. To simply give that away, especially when it’s what allows me to pay the rent and put groceries on the table, would be foolish and counterproductive.

Maybe someday, though. But not now, when my life depends on it.

Published by